Before The DARE Program, Kentucky Had Cowboy Louie

20 11 2008

Some of you that attended Kentucky’s county elementary schools might remember a cowboy magician that toured in the 80’s.  His name was Cowboy Louie Mitchell, and he worked at Loretta Lynn’s dude ranch in Tennessee.  The same ranch that hosts the annual motocross championship.  As a fourth grader at Knifley Elementary School this was one of the best entertainment shows we got during the school year.  We had every type of motivational speaker come save us from class.  Folk singers, interpretive dancers, puppet shows, boo these people.  Bring out Cowboy Louie.  This was the era of Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs, and before DARE was created.  Rural students learned about the evils of drugs via Louie’s scary stories.


Cowboy Louie’s show was a mixture of magic, comedy, and the anti-drug message.  The best part of his traveling road show was the merchandise table, and the signature magic suckers.  These suckers were homemade and hand wrapped in clear cellophane.  They were trapezoid shaped and transparent red.  No doubt 99% sugar, but they were incredibly good.  His anti-drug message was overshadowed by the fact he got us addicted to these red suckers and once we were out, it took a year before we could score more.  The other items on his shwag table were just fluff to accent the suckers.  Louie bucks, which were jumbo thousand dollar bills with his picture, autographed photos, pens, pencils and erasers, all crap, we want the suckers.  I think they were three for a dollar, but if you bought in bulk and hoarded your supply til everyone else was out, you could name your price.

Louie would pull rabbits out of his ten gallon hat, cut an 8th grade girl in half, and make your teacher disappear.  Usually he picked the most attractive teacher from the crowd and dragged her onstage to the excitement of the kids.  If I were to see this now, I’m sure it would look fake, but to a crowd of magic sucker addicted ten year olds, this was better than the Christmas play.  (yes in the 80’s we had Christmas plays)  He would make the kids chant his funny, magic word:  Emo-shimmy-sho-la-di-da.  I don’t know why I remember that, there must be others like me.  I do recall the bus drivers hated Cowboy Louie day.  They got to deliver a busload of screaming kids on a serious sugar high, down the crooked gravel roads of Adair County.

There is sadly no information on the system of tubes about Cowboy Louie.  One old blog claims that he passed away in 2001.  Apparently his daughter became a semi-famous singer from Nashville Tonya Mitchell,  her Wikipedia entry says Louie passed away.  He might not have became famous, but he was a memorable role model to many of Kentucky’s students.  Motivational speakers were usually a get out of class free pass, but Cowboy Louie was fun.  If anybody else remembers this guy, drop a line.  I believe he regularly toured the rural school circuit, my friends from city schools had never heard of him.